Fagbenle, who hails from England, has emerged as an inside force and averaged 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds to lead Blair Academy to the New Jersey Prep A title this season. She has committed to Harvard.Read More Below
In a post John Wall and Carmelo Anthony world, many top-ranked recruits view college as a one-and-done experience. It's simply a means to an end, a requisite next step on the road to NBA stardom. For Blair Academy's Temi Fagbenle, that sentiment couldn't be more false.
A tennis player for the early part of her life, Fagbenle took up basketball solely for the potential scholarship it could provide her in the United States.
"At 14, me and my dad had a talk and decided it would be in my best interest to change to basketball," she said. "It would help me get into college."
That move has paid major dividends, as the London-bred forward has been a hardwood sensation. Her ballhawking defense hounded opponents all season, and her natural jumper dazzled D-I scouts. She racked up 13 double-doubles and led Blair to its first New Jersey Prep A title in 2011. Four years into her competitive basketball career, she's progressed from raw athlete into can't miss recruit.
Fagbenle was named New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year and a McDonald's All-American, drawing scholarship offers from Duke, Boston College and Georgetown. Staying true to her academic roots, she committed to Harvard in November.
"Well it's Harvard," she said of her decision. "There really wasn't much competition."
Her commitment caps an enduring journey that shipped Fagbenle all around the globe. After her birth in Baltimore, she moved to Nigeria and London -- where she spent the majority of her childhood -- before relocating to the New Jersey at age 15 to focus on basketball. Though travel-tested, she concedes her acclimation to America was more difficult than imagined.
"You guys have a different accent," she said. "You teach differently. Grammar is different. All that was hard to grasp and I wasn't really living to my full potential the first year."
She's since blossomed, excelling both on the court and in the classroom. The 6-foot-4 senior averaged 16.6 points and 9.3 rebounds while accumulating a 3.4 GPA. She's been the consummate student-athlete.
She's also been a model daughter. Fagbenle is the ninth of 12 brothers and sisters, keeping in touch with all of them through phone calls and e-mail. Despite less frequent family visits, she says distance won't hinder communication upon arrival to Cambridge.
"I'll just be in a different state. I'll still be seven hours away from home."
Following the All-American Game on March 30, Fagbenle will begin training for the European Championships, where she'll play for England. She plans to spend the rest of the summer improving her ballhandling -- the weakest aspect of her game -- in hopes of carrying the Crimson to their first outright Ivy League crown since 2007.
To Fagbenle, it's just another part of the college experience "I know it is going to be very, very hard," she said. "I'm just looking forward to it all."